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Living the Life

Get Out of the Car

When Henry Ford started mass producing affordable automobiles, he changed the world with his inventions, business philosophies, and social policies. He also lived long enough to see the automobile literally drive the physical development of towns, cities and the highways of America.

A chicken in every pot and a car in every garage to go out and get the chicken for the pot. In almost every American city, unless you live within the limits of public transportation, you need a car. Often it’s not even a matter of distance but of safety. Many suburban communities do not have sidewalks so even a trip to the corner store or to the nearest public transportation commuter stop means driving.

Times Square street reclamation

New York City Times Square without traffic.

Planning a city with the car in mind has taken away a vital part of community life. What use to be an extension of the home where people mingled and interacted has shrunk to bumper to bumper gridlock. Also, as the population ages, more and more drivers who shouldn’t be driving continue to do so. It is ingrained into the American psyche that driving equals independence. Older citizens need support services and understanding as giving up the car means adjusting daily habits.

It is estimated there are ~ 0.25 working vehicles / person in the U.S. with all the miles of roads, highways, bridges that need to be maintained and policed, as well as the parts, services and resources (oil / gas) to keep the car running. It is a resource-limited industry that will be exhausted. Remember the 70s oil crisis?

Car companies are scrabbling to think and develop green — cars that work on renewable resources. While this can help with long-er distance travel, it still depends on the car mentality. With the emphasis on green living, health, and community building, a number of European cities like Paris and Amsterdam have bicycle-sharing programs as a means of transportation. North American cities are conducting feasibility studies on the same subject. Many cities already have designated bike lanes in place — though sharing the road is still an education for drivers and bicyclists.

The car is and will be a viable means of transportation but it is not always the best choice. Ultimately, the car is a convenience and not a dependence and the weaning should start now.


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